Stollen is a traditional bread dating back to 15th century Germany. The shape of the bread is said to have originally represented Jesus in swaddling clothes, though I honestly only see delicious marzipan wrapped in a crusty, fruity, sugary, bread. This is a very easy recipe to follow, though if you are short on time you can use self raising flour instead of AP but STILL USE THE YEAST AS WELL.
1 T yeast
2 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1 large egg
1/2 t salt
1/3 cup mixed raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup candied peel
6 oz marzipan
Dissolve yeast in warm milk and let set until creamy (about 10 minutes). Add 2 cups of the flour, sugar, butter, egg, and lastly salt and combine. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in fruit and peel. Continue kneading until smooth (about 8 minutes). Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Place somewhere warm and cover with a damp towel. Allow to set until dough doubles in size (about 1 hour). Turn dough out onto a greased cookie sheet and spread flat (does not need to be properly rolled out). Taking your marzipan, create a long cord and place it in the middle of the dough. Wrap the dough around the marzipan, being sure to pinch all the seams. Place cookie sheet someplace warm and allow to proof for one hour. Preheat oven to 350* and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300* and bake for 40 minutes or until done. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, if you have some handy, and serve!
Gingerbread has a bit of an odd history. It's said that the original recipe was brought to Europe in the year 992 by an Armenian monk by the name of Gregory Makar, when he traveled to France. The recipe then traveled northward to Germany and Sweden (the nuns discovered that it aided with indigestion!), and eventually made it's way to Shropshire, UK, a town that prides itself on it's famous gingerbread. The earliest recorded mention of gingerbread in the UK is 1793- that's 801 years after it's original creation! I suppose word didn't travel as fast back then! There are many recipes for gingerbread cookies out there today, and believe me I have tried many. So far this is my favorite. If it's rolled properly it is very sturdy for gingerbread houses, as well as perfect for gingerbread men, or any other shapes you'd like to cut out!
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.In a medium bowl, mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cookies are done, they will look dry, but still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks. When cool, the cookies can be frosted with the icing of your choice.
Bûche de Noël is a traditional French cake made around Christmas. Others may know it as "yule log" or "giant Swiss cake roll" but I think everyone can agree on one thing- they are delicious! While I haven't been able to dig up much history on the baked good, my sources unanimously associate it with French tradition. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart, but even though it was very simple, I didn't agree with her "pinch" of baking soda because it was very vague and my genoise turned flatter than it really should have been. For that reason I have altered the leavener in the following recipe, though I cannot take credit for the recipe, itself.
(from Martha Stewart)
2/3 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
1/2 t of baking soda
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 1/2-by-15 1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan. Line with parchment; butter and flour paper, tapping out the excess flour. Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda together twice into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Skim off white foam, and pour clear yellow butter into a bowl, discarding white liquid at the bottom. Set aside in a warm place.
In a medium-size heat-proof bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water; stir until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and beat on high speed until mixture is thick and pale and has tripled in bulk. Reduce speed to medium, add vanilla, and beat 2 to 3 minutes more. In three additions, sift flour mixture over egg mixture, folding in gently with a spatula. While folding in last addition, dribble melted butter over batter and fold in.
Spread batter evenly in pan, leaving behind any unincorporated butter in the bottom of the bowl. Tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until cake springs back when touched in center, 15 to 20 minutes. Don't overbake or cake will crack. Let sit in pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle.
Dust surface with cocoa powder. To make rolling easier, trim edges of cake, and cover with a sheet of waxed paper and a damp dish towel. Invert onto a work surface, and peel off parchment; dust with cocoa. Starting from one long end, carefully roll up cake in towel, and leave until cool
To assemble, unroll the cooled cake and slather with chocolate frosting (MS suggests chocolate mousse, which would be delicious, but I used buttercream). Re-roll the cake carefully and frost the outside (again you could use buttercream, but more traditionally ganache is used). Assemble on a platter and sprinkle with confectioners sugar to give the appearance of snow. If you'd like, create some mushrooms or holly out of marzipan or fondant to decorate. Or just go crazy and make a bird, like Jake did!